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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Walking Poles Are for Everyone

Nov 09, 2010 10:34PM

Walking poles aren’t just for mountain trekkers these days. Manufacturers offer a variety of well-engineered walking poles for almost every fitness need and type of terrain. Poles can be divided into three categories: Nordic walking, hiking and winter walking, and travel.

“Nordic walking poles are designed for people who want to walk on pavement and flat surfaces,” explains Joanne Gabrielsen, store manager for the Erehwon Mountain Outfitter store at 2585 Waukegan Road, in Bannockburn. “These poles have feet at the tips and provide extra support for high-paced aerobic walking for a good cardiac walkout.” Nordic poles typically cost about $100 or more and are usually made from carbon fiber composites.

Hiking or trekking poles offer balance and stability for off-trail use. They feature a pointed tip that helps hikers navigate through gravel, rocks and other uneven or slanted surfaces. Hiking poles typically have an adapter for a “basket” that can be attached for snowshoeing and winter hikes on ice and snow. Trekking poles run $70 or more and are made from aircraft-grade aluminum or carbon fiber composites.

Gabrielsen notes that carbon fiber poles generally cost more than aluminum, and are usually lighter in weight. Grips and accessories also affect price: Poles with plastic grips are less expensive than those with molded, soft handles. She recommends choosing the pole and accessories that will best suit your needs and be comfortable for your workouts.

A walking stick is a good choice for travel. Modern walking sticks collapse to fit into a 25-inch suitcase and are suitable for walking and light hiking. Most include both a flat foot, for in-town sightseeing, and a spiked tip for hitting the trails, as well as a mount for camera and binoculars. Some brands even offer a built-in thermos.

“All brands of poles are adjustable to a custom fit for a person’s height and walking comfort,” says Gabrielsen. “Adjust the legs for a longer length to walk downhill or make them shorter when walking up a hill.”

Poles are available at several area sporting goods retailers and online.